Onomasticon anglo-saxonicum; a list of Anglo-Saxon proper names from the time of Beda to that of King John
- Publication date
- Hildesheim, G. Olms
- Digitizing sponsor
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"Reprografischer Nachdruck der Ausgabe Cambrigde [sic] 1897."
"Bibliography and abbreviations": p. [xxxii]-lvii
"Reprografischer Nachdruck der Ausgabe Cambrigde [sic] 1897." "Bibliography and abbreviations": p. [xxxii]-lvii.
- 2008-04-20 17:43:42
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The book largely builds upon the glossary at the back of “The Oldest English texts” (1886) by Henry Sweet, which included lists of dithematic names found in certain manuscripts written before 900, and defined their elements. Searle went further and ambitiously attempted to list all the Anglo-Saxon names used up to the reign of King John. Sweet and Searle should really be given as much credit as those Victorian scientists who identified chemical elements, for although they did not find all the elements that compound names contain, they were pioneers who paved the way for further research, providing a framework into which subsequent investigators could slot new elements as they were discovered.
Searle tried to cross reference scribal variants to their normalized form, but he did not explain the meanings of the names that he listed. Had he done so, he would have prevented himself from including gibberish readings from corrupt documents. A further problem was his failure to understand hypocoristic forms. He did decipher a handful of them, but the overwhelming majority defeated him.
The most significant flaw in the book is the inclusion of a large number of foreign names that do not occur in Anglo-Saxon sources. It was a serious error of judgement by Searle to pad out the list of names with these illicit interlopers.
Searle ought also to have been more watchful concerning names from Anglo-Saxon sources that could be foreign. Colman is probably derived from the Celtic name Colomagnos and Colswegen is most likely the Norse compound Kollsveinn.
Other curious anomalies include:
Page 73: “Arwine [c. 720]” is the same person as “Earnwine [c. 730]” on page 214.
Page 81: Batsuen is interpreted as Beaduswegen, but it is more probably Norse bát-sveinn.
Page 95: Beorhtuud should be read as if it were Beorhtw’d, because it is merely a contraction of Beorhtweald.
Page 155: “Cynegifu Kinegif [c. 1043] w. of Ulf portreeve of London” is clearly the same person as “Cynegyth Kinegið [c. 1043] w. of Ulf portreeve of London” listed on the same page.
Page 238: Eya is neither Anglo-Saxon nor a name, but (according Sawyer) a Greek interjection.
Page 270: Gumbeorh looks as if it could be legitimate Anglo-Saxon name, but she was actually Gumperga, neice of Liutprand, King of Lombardy, and wife of Romuald II, Duke of Benevento.
Page 485: Wicbeald is Wychbold, in Worcestershire (“in uico regio qui dicitur Uuicbold”).
Page 504: Woden is listed as if he were a person, with the explanation “anc. of the AS kings”.
Page 561: Holdburh is another place-name (“Eustace Oldcorn confirms to the Nuns (Pr. Custance) a grant of Holdeburg, viz. an annual rent of 6d”).
Searle quoted sources for each name, but the references are in a heavily abbreviated form, sometimes just a single letter, and not all are listed in the bibliography. Among the cited works are Anglo-Saxon charters, mostly from the editions of Kemble and Birch. Although Searle was aware that some charters are forgeries, he did not know the full scale of the problem. It is now clear that several monasteries forged documents on an industrial scale, so all references to charters need to be checked against a modern edition, to see whether the document is genuine. Also, in some cases, better readings are now available.
What is needed is a second edition that incorporates the material from the addenda into the body of the work, updates the charter references (and includes an indication of which charters are corrupt or forged), improves the bibliographic citations, removes the place names, foreigners, gods, and fictional people, carefully explains the meaning of each element, and obelizes those forms that are corrupt beyond recovery. Sadly the days when a single savant could produce a work of this magnitude are long gone.
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